The permanent exhibition bringing under one roof, prints of great works of Andhra Pradesh shows the brilliance of the artists who straddled space and time.
It is an exhibition that connects a generation to the modern art scene in Andhra Pradesh. There are black and white images of people as well as the images they created about the society around them and the mythology that enveloped them. A brief biographical detail tells us about the artists from Alamanda near Vizianagaram, from Khammam, men and women from Amalapuram and Adilabad who once saw the sunshine but now languish in the twilight zone of recognition and oblivion.
“I conceived this exhibition when I had a conversation about the Telugu University's history of Andhra Pradesh which didn't even have a chapter on art. ‘What art are you talking about', said the person. I was surprised and realised that I must do something to set the record straight,” says Jogi Naidu who has dug into his resources as well as old Telugu magazines to bring alive a narrative about the evolution and development of art in Andhra Pradesh. “The art of Andhra Pradesh dates back to the rock paintings of Alladurg in Medak to the Ajanta and Ellora caves during the Satavahana period. These prints of the paintings that date back to 1922, some of them are in private collections while the biggest tranche is with the Telugu University.
Without the brashness of riotous colours but with the emblematic ebb and flow of life, the paintings create a mellow mood. “Most of these older works are water washes and show great skill,” says Jogi Naidu pointing to a work by Mantravadi Krishnamurthy's Adishankara. “Sadly I could not get his photograph. Look at the magical blue that rises out of darkness into light. See this figurative concept of death,” he says pointing to a watercolour which shows dragon flies rising out of a pillar of light atop a pyramid.
The series of paintings show not just the evolution of art in Andhra Pradesh but also show how their teachers spotted and moulded them at the same time keeping the idiom and style intact. If Adavi Bapi Raju and Damerla Rama Rao were spotted by Oswald Couldrey, the principal of Government Arts College which led to the creation of Andhra School of Art, there were artists like Kowta Ram Mohan Shastri and Anand Mohan Shastri who learnt under Nandlal Bose and other maestros at Santiniketan.
Besides the works of Damerla Rama Rao, that are copies of works created by his sister Buchikrishnamma and his wife Satyavani. Pointing to a work by V. V. Bhagiradhi, Jogi Naidu says: “He was the greatest landscape painter of his time but it is a tragedy that his wife passed away due to starvation and he also died due to the same reason two days later. Damerla Rama Rao passed away due to smallpox at 28. These artists were legends whose passion transcended their time.” There are paintings created by Madhavpeddi Gokhale who was the art director of Patala Bhairavi, another artist created the logo of Andhra University, while another is a sculptor who dabbled in water colours in his spare time, these artists were polymaths.
Spread in two halls, with a brief preface in Telugu about the artists and the school of art they belonged to, the walk is an enlightening experience for novices of art in Andhra Pradesh. There is The Bengal School of Andhra Pradesh artists, The Bombay School of Andhra Pradesh artists, The Madras School of Andhra Pradesh artists, The Hyderabad School of Andhra Pradesh artists and works of other artists. The department of Culture had set up this gallery permanently in the State Gallery of Fine Arts. The title of the gallery is Telugu Chitrakala Vaijayanthi Gallery. As you watch the rows and rows of grainy black and white photographs and the small prints and the footnotes about their achievements you cannot but think of Thyagaraja's lyric: Endaro mahanubhavulu. (The gallery at Madhapur is open between 10.30 a.m. and 7.30 p.m.)
Keywords: Andhra University